The National Inquiry into Management and Medicine looked at hospitals across the UK, focussing on the often troubled relationships between doctors and NHS managers. It found that where the two sides have formed a genuine alliance, the health service runs more efficiently and patient outcomes are improved.
Frictions between doctors and managers have been well documented. And the new research, led by Professor Ian Kirkpatrick of the Leeds University Business School, blames poor relationships between the two sides for the fact that increased productivity in hospitals has not kept pace with the rise in spending.
It can be difficult for doctors and managers to get on, said Becky Malby, Director of the Universitys Centre for Innovation in Health Management, which published the research. But our study shows that where the two sides work together, everyone can benefit.
And now the centre hopes to use the good examples set by some hospitals to improve relationships in the others.
There has been a tendency to think that these problems can be changed simply by changing management structures, said Becky. You find people fiddling about with structures when in fact its more important to get the actual relationships right.
Managers and doctors are always going to have different points of view about the way the NHS should be run. But the places which succeed are those where they have transcended this and where they see these different points of view as a strength.
Becky points to power struggles within the NHS as a source of difficulties: Over the past 20 years, general managers began to develop a power base to rival that of the doctors, she said. The report says the first step in developing productive relationships is for the two sides to be willing to work together and to take a genuine interest in each others work and pool their resources.